Tunisians are taking a page out of French activist Jose Bove‘s manual, and standing up to American multinational efforts to set up shop in Tunisia. (Jose Bove is the French unionist and member of the European parliament made famous for ransacking a McDonald’s restaurant in France in 1999.)
A recent article in Nawaat, by Abdelouadoud El Omrani, highlighted Tunisian distrust toward the greasy fast food fare of McDonalds and the like. El Omrani’s article translates into English as “No McDonald’s in Tunisia, Give me my Sandwich and Soup, Thank you.” A corresponding Facebook page has a delightful gallery of photographs of Tunisian tuna sandwiches.
Non-Tunisian readers may be surprised to find out that Tunisia actually has no foreign chain restaurants. Rumor has it that kleptocratic Ben Ali family members tried to assume controlling stakes in franchises (as they did with French ones, like Peugeot and Bricorama), and it just wasn’t worth it for American companies to make the investment. Contrast with the recent announcement on HuffPo that IHOP is opening 40 new restaurants in the region!
As probably the number one fan of Tunisian food I know, I can’t say that Mr. Omrani. A 4 dollar lunch here in Tunisia will get you a whole fresh fish, several delicious salads, a baguette, french fries, and in case you’re still hungry, a plate of spaghetti. Compare that to a 6 dollar “value meal” and the man has a point. His defense of Tunisian food is exemplary!
One does wonder though if McDonald’s does get its franchise here, whether Tunisia may follow France and be the loudest critics, and the biggest consumers…..